The U.S. will send an additional Aegis-equipped ship to the Mediterranean this fall to defend Turkey and other NATO allies against ballistic missile threats, Anadolu Agency reported August 19.
Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Pamela Rawe told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that the additional deployment brings the total number of ship-borne anti-missile Aegis systems in the Mediterranean to four.
"The U.S. is committed to the defense of our NATO allies, which includes Turkey," Rawe said.
"The forward-deployment of these four ships is part of the President's European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) that calls for using BMD-capable Aegis ships and Aegis Ashore sites to defend Europe against ballistic missile threats originating in the Middle East," she added, referring to ballistic missile defense.
The U.S.' decision to off-set its removal of Patriot Missiles batteries from Turkey with Aegis-equipped naval ships brings with it new tactical advantages, according to Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association.
The Aegis systems have been shown to be "more effective against potential targets in a real world environment" during testing, Kimball said, noting that while neither the Patriot batteries nor the Aegis systems are infallible, the Aegis systems are "generally more reliable".
In addition, the ships -- Ticonderoga-type cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers -- have wider capabilities than their land-based missile counterparts, such as Patriot batteries, due to their mobility.
The Aegis systems fire both SM-3 short to intermediate range ballistic missiles and short-range SM-2 missiles, according to the Defense Department.
Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said that the Aegis-equipped ships bring a "range of capabilities to support the defense of Turkey and NATO missions".
"U.S. Naval Forces in Europe will continue their close cooperation with the Turkish Navy in the region in support of Turkish defense needs," Seal said.
In making the decision not to renew the deployment of its Patriot batteries in order to modernize the weapons systems, Washington has stressed that the Syrian government's ballistic missiles stockpiles have been significantly depleted over the course of the country's civil war, now on its fifth year, undercutting the reason for their initial deployment.
"We've seen the Assad regime grow weaker, and we've seen them shoot through the majority of their missiles stock at targets there domestically," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.
Kimball agreed, saying that the Aegis systems can address any potential threats stemming from Syria's remaining missiles.
"They can deal with that, and they can be moved much more easily geographically because they're on floating vessels," he said.